(Posted by Trent A. Dougherty, Director of Legal Affairs, Ohio Environmental Council, Director of Ohio Environmental Law Center)
Today, President Obama, pressured by Congress’ ultimatum, denied the Keystone XL proposed 1,700 mile pipeline that would have stretched from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The U.S. State Department, in a statement, confirmed that the administration has rejected the proposal, and TransCanada will have to go back to the drawing board if they want to draft a plan that the president might seem more appropriate.
The pipeline would bring Canadian Tar Sand Oil to the Gulf Coast refineries, and in the middle disrupt the ecology of Middle America.
This denial occurred on the same day that the Ohio Senate approved 25-7, SR69 (Wagoner) to urge Congress to support the continued and increased importation of oil derived from Canadian oil sands and urge Congress to urge the U.S. Secretary of State to approve the TransCanada Keystone Coast Expansion pipeline project.
Pipeline proponents have already called this a job killing decision, and will use this as a rallying cry going into the next few weeks of Presidential Primaries. Still, we will probably see a revised (and approved) proposal as the November Election comes closer — politics may win in the end. Nevertheless, the denial of the XL pipeline today will be beneficial in the long run – either stopping the ill-advised plan altogether or allow a revised and less ecologically threatening plan to move forward.
The XL Pipeline decision, however, got me thinking about the little oil/gas issue we have here in Ohio currently. What is the fate of the oil and gas boom in Ohio? Will the state follow the sound reasoning of the Obama Administration in the XL decision and make sure the most ecologically protective projects are put in place before approving large-scale expansion? I hate to be pessimistic, but I fear Ohio won’t.
Ohio is outdriving its headlights when it comes to identifying and controlling the risks of the shale gas boom. Ohio is permitting the next generation of wells without first fixing the ills of last generation’s risks.
With such colossal-scale drilling, and new ecological and geological uncertainties arising on an almost weekly basis, it is imperative that we take a collective breath and make certain that regulations truly protect our gas-field communities. The same ‘take it slow’ reasoning and ‘sound science over political science’ approach the President took in today’s decision, was the genesis of the call for a Moratorium on Shale Drilling and Fracking Permits in Ohio which OEC and 50 other organizations presented to the Ohio Legislature last Spring. All signs seem to point to a reasonable slow down.
We have already been taught one lesson by our thirst for shale gas, thanks to nearly a dozen earthquakes in Youngstown, and we could take a lesson from the President’s approach to Keystone. Yet, I fear we won’t learn anything from either as Ohio drills deeper and deeper.